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Top 18 African Heads of States on Twitter: it’s a mixed bag

Wondering which African Heads of States are big on Twitter in 2017? 

We have the answer for you in this blog post, where we picked the top 18 based on Twitter followers as at 7 July.

We are using old-fashioned spreadsheets to present the results for numbers of  Twitter followers as a constant, compared to a mix of five different variables.

Using a mobile device? For best experience, view the spreadsheets in landscape mode, or tap on each spreadsheet to move it horizontally if you need to.


Here is a table of contents for ease of navigation:

Table of Contents

Twitter Follower Count of Top 18 African Heads of States

Here they are:

CountryHead of StateTwitter HandleVerified?FollowersRanking: Followers
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta@ukenyattaY2,290,0001
RwandaPaul Kagame@paulkagameY1,690,0002
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi@alsisiofficialY1,550,0003
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari@mbuhariY1,080,0004
UgandaYoweri Museveni@KagutaMuseveniY474,0005
South AfricaJacob Zuma@sapresidentY428,0006
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo@NAkufoAddoY301,0007
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli@magufulijpY296,0008
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara@adosolutionsN249,0009
SenegalMacky Sall@macky_sallY204,00010
CameroonPaul Biya@PR_Paul_BiyaN189,00011
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba@presidentaboY69,30012
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza@pnkurunzizaY58,60013
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré@rochkaborepf Y36,70014
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi@bejiceofficialN33,30015
GuineaAlpha Condé@prof_alphacondeN17,90016
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe@fegnassingbeN15,40017
NigerMahamadou Issoufou@issoufoumhmN12,40018

Our analysis shows that President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, where a rerun of presidential elections is due to take place in October of 2017 due to a court judgment that ruled that the first round held in August was null and void, leads the top 18 by number of followers.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who won the presidential race by a landslide only days ago, is in the second spot.

3 Heads of State from East Africa are in the top 5 – Presidents Kenyatta (1), Kagame (2) and Museveni (5).

Heads of State from Nigeria and Egypt – Presidents Buhari and el-Sisi whose countries are also in the top 3 most populous in Africa – complete the top 5.

Most of the 18 Heads of State’s Twitter handles are verified, which confirms they are the correct accounts.

In an attempt to understand reasons why the identified 18 of the 54 African Heads of States made it onto our Twitter chart, we analysed 10 variables for possible correlations. 

Theses are tweeting activities, ages of the top 18, their tenures, regions on the continent, dominant languages, country populations, Internet penetration rankings, democracy index rankings and GDP rankings. 

We present the comparative stats for each of the 10 variables in the rest of this post.

1. Tweeting Activity By Top 18 African Heads of State

Can tweeting activity of the top 18 African Heads of States tell us something about their popularity? 

Let’s have a look.

CountryHead of StateFollowersRanking: FollowersPublished TweetsRanking: Tweeting Activity
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,00019,9331
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,00076,3092
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,00094,8143
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900164,4454
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,00053,1565
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000113,0576
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,00022,6997
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,00042,4158
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300152,4119
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,00032,21110
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,700141,72211
SenegalMacky Sall204,000101,69512
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300121,44713
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,4001769514
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,6001337115
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000817816
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,4001816517
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,000610018

When comparing the two rankings, there does not seem to be a direct relationship between tweeting activity and number of followers

Thus, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta from Kenya and Yoweri Museveni from Uganda – whose tweeting and follower rankings are the same – are exceptions.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma – whose account was opened in May 2011 – has published only 100 tweets to date, and the last tweet was on 6 October 2013. 

For all intents and purposes, this Twitter handle has been abandoned, and yet it has the 6th highest number of followers in the top 18. 

We guess President Zuma has been so in the news lately, thanks to his relationship with the Guptas, that Tweeps hope they will hear from him directly about the whole drama. 

So far DOLOLO (meaning “nothing”, as they say in South African colloquial)!

President Johan Magufuli of Tanzania is in the bottom three most active Heads of States with 178 tweets in the 8th position by number of followers. 

His last tweet was published on 7 September 2017. 

Worth noting that he is one of the (very) few Presidents in the whole continent who tweets in an indigenous language

Given his style of leadership, where he would prefer for his countrymen to hear directly from him, we were expecting that he would also be very active on Twitter. 

Having said that, he only joined Twitter in July of 2015. 

Was this in anticipation of winning the elections that took place at the end of October 2015? Maybe.


Tanzania is having her Kiswahili cake. Can she eat it too?

2. Age (Yrs)

Given the skew of social media to younger users generally, we analysed the ages of the top 18 Heads of States to see if this variable plays a role.

CountryHead of stateFollowersRanking: FollowersAgeRanking: Young to Old
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,40017511
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,60013532
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,0001553
SenegalMacky Sall204,00010554
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,0008575
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,30012586
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,0002597
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,70014608
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,0003629
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,400186510
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,00057211
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,00077312
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,00047413
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,00067514
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,00097515
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900167916
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000118417
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300159018

Guinea is the only country where age of the Head of State ranks the same as the number of followers. Other than this exception, there does not seem to be a clear link between numbers of Twitter followers and ages of the top 18.

Faure E. Gnassingbe of Togo – where the Internet was switched off by the government in early September 2017 – is the youngest president, but he is also the second last in the top 18 by number of Twitter followers.

President Nkurunziza of Burundi – who was recently embroiled in a controversy related to the extension of his stay in office – is the second youngest Head of State, and is thirteenth by number of Twitter followers.

President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia is the oldest Head of State and is also in the fifteenth spot by number of Twitter followers.


Can Uhuru Kenyatta's Twitter popularity be used to support his Best President Award?

Tenure (Yrs)

Does tenure have anything to do with the top 18 Heads of State’s numbers of Twitter followers? Let’s check.

CountryHead of stateFollowersRanking: FollowersTenure in OfficeRanking: Tenure From Yr 0
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,000701
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,000422
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000824
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,7001423
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,000336
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,3001535
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,000147
SenegalMacky Sall204,0001058
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,4001869
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,0009711
GuineaAlpha Condé17,90016710
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,0006812
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,30012813
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,600131214
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400171215
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,00021716
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,00053117
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000113518

There are no direct correlations between tenures and any of the top 18 African Heads of States.

Overall, most of the Heads of States have been in office for less than 10 years. 

If the African states in the top 18 that are subscribing to the democratic rule observed the two-term presidency limit that is a cornerstone of this system, this would not be worth mentioning. 

However, this is not the case for the bottom 5 Heads by tenure, who are from the democratic states.

There does not seem to be a clear link between this variable and numbers of Twitter followers.

3. Regions

What about country locations of the top 18?

CountryHead of stateFollowersRegions
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000Central
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300Central
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,000East
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,000East
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,000East
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000East
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,600East
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,000North
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300North
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,000South
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,000West
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,000West
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,000West
SenegalMacky Sall204,000West
Burkina FasoRoch Marc Christian Kaboré36,700West
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900West
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400West
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,400West

Most of the countries in the top 18 come from West Africa, followed by East Africa. Does this tell us anything? Leave a comment below.

The percentage of verified Twitter handles from the two leading regions makes for an interesting read. Check the table above to see what we mean.

4. Dominant Foreign Languages

Africa is dominated by two foreign languages – English and French. As a result, these 2 languages are used to divide the continent into mainly Anglophone countries (mainly East and Southern Africa) and Francophone countries (mainly Central and Western Africa).

Our experience is that English is the dominant language on Twitter. 

Does this have any influence on the showing by the African countries of the top 18 Heads of States? 

Let’s find out!

CountryHead of stateFollowersForeign Languages
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,000English
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,000English
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,000English
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,000English
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,000English
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,000English
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,000English
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000English
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,000French
SenegalMacky Sall204,000French
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000French
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300French
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,600French
Burkina FasoRoch Marc Christian Kaboré36,700French
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300French
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900French
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400French
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,400French

Only 8 of the countries where the top 18 Heads of States come from speak English. 

However, the bulk of Twitter followers come from these 8 countries.

The foreign language rankings do not conclusively indicate that English has a bearing on the countries in the top 18.

5. Country Populations

The next variable we analyse is the country populations of top 18 Heads of State. 

Let’s have a look.

CountryHead of stateFollowersRanking: FollowersPopulationsRanking: Population
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,0004191,835,9361
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,000395,215,1022
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000856,877,5293
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,000655,436,3604
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,000148,466,9285
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,000541,652,9386
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,000728,656,7237
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,0001124,513,6898
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,000923,815,8869
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,4001821,563,60710
Burkina FasoRoch Marc Christian Kaboré36,7001419,173,32211
SenegalMacky Sall204,0001016,054,27512
GuineaAlpha Condé17,9001613,290,65913
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,000212,159,58614
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,6001311,936,48115
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,3001511,494,76016
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400177,691,91517
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300121,801,23218

There are direct correlations only for Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo – 3 out of 18.

Here too, there is no overall clear evidence that sizes of African country populations are directly linked to the sizes of Heads of State’s Twitter followers, despite Nigeria and Egypt being at the top of the Populations table and their Heads of State in the top 5 by Twitter Followers.

6. Internet Penetration Rankings

Can Internet penetration rankings – that is the number of Internet users as a percentage of country populations – explain the stacking of the top 18 African Heads of States?

CountryHead of StateFollowersRanking: FollwoersCountry Internet Penetration Ranking: Country Internet Penetration
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,000182%1
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,000652%2
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,3001550%3
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,000449%4
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,0001120%5
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,3001237%6
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,000337%7
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,000531%8
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,000231%9
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,000728%10
SenegalMacky Sall204,0001023%11
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,000922%12
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,7001411%13
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900167%14
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400177%15
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,00087%16
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,600134%17
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,400182%18

Direct correlations are found only for Kenya, Nigeria and Niger – 3 out of 18.

Overall, the lack of the clear correlation between Twitter follower and Internet penetration rankings continues.

7. Democracy Index Rankings

The second last variable we analyse to see if there is any correlation is Democracy Index. 

Our theory here is that Heads of States of most democratic countries embrace social media more. 

For this purpose, we used the democracy index report of 2016 by The Economist

The report allocates scores out of 10 to countries of the world, including in Africa.

Let’s see below if our theory is correct, comparing follower and democracy rankings.

CountryHead of StateFollowersRanking: FollowersCountry Democracy Index - EconomistRanking: Country Democracy Index
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,00067.411
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,00076.752
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300156.43
SenegalMacky Sall204,000106.214
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,00085.765
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,00015.536
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,00055.267
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,700144.78
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,00044.59
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,400183.9610
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,00093.8111
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300123.7412
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000113.4613
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,400173.3214
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,00033.3115
GuineaAlpha Condé17,900163.1416
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,00023.0717
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,600132.418

Direct correlations are found only for Gabon and Guinea – 2 out of 18.  The correlation for Rwanda is almost inverse.

8. GDP Per Capita Rankings

With the 10th and the last variable we test if there is any link between the top 18 African Heads of States’ follower rankings and their countries’ GDP per capita.

CountryHead of StateFollowersRanking: FollowersGDP /CapitaRanking: Country GDP/Capita
GabonAli Bongo Ondimba69,300127,1791
South AfricaJacob Zuma428,00065,2742
TunisiaBeji Caid Essebsi33,300153,6893
EgyptAbdel Fattah el-Sisi1,550,00033,5154
NigeriaMuhammadu Buhari1,080,00042,1785
Ivory CoastAlassane Ouattara249,00091,5266
GhanaNana Akufo-Addo301,00071,5147
KenyaUhuru Kenyatta2,290,00011,4558
CameroonPresident Paul Biya189,000111,0339
SenegalMacky Sall204,0001095810
TanzaniaJohn Magufuli296,000887911
RwandaPaul Kagame1,690,000270312
Burkina FasoRoch M. C. Kaboré36,7001465013
UgandaYoweri Museveni474,000561514
TogoFaure E. Gnassingbe15,4001757915
GuineaAlpha Condé17,9001650816
NigerMahamadou Issoufou12,4001836317
BurundiPierre Nkurunziza58,6001328618

There are direct correlations for Ghana, Senegal and Guinea – 3 out of 18.

Rankings of the GPD per capita of the remaining 15 countries and their Heads of States’ Twitter followers do not match.

Our Finding

Excluding the few exceptions that were pointed out where relevant, there is no direct correlation between any of the 10 variables covered in this post and the top 18 African Heads of States on Twitter by followers.

Our Conclusion

We suspect that Twitter follower numbers have been higher for some of the top 18 African Heads of States because they have been in the news a lot over the years, and on a fair number of occasions for the wrong reasons. 

Think of Presidents Zuma (South Africa – pending corruption charges), Buhari (Nigeria – the absent President), Nkurunziza (Burundi – refusal to step down in line with the constitution), Gnassimbe (Togo – one-party dominant state run like a dynasty), Museveni (Uganda – alleged rigging of elections), Kagame (Rwanda – alleged despot) and Kenyatta (Kenya – the ICC case).

It is also our impression that some of the political leaders do not fully embrace social media, if at all. 

This could explain why President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia, the country with the second largest population on the continent, does not tweet.

Mulatu Teshome Twitter Feed | July 2017

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